Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Standalone that Became a Series

When I wrote Mind Games, the first book in my Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, I had no idea it would become a series. The idea of a villain with the same psychic abilities as my heroine intrigued me, but in my mind, it was a standalone novel. The villain, a man who plays psychic “mind games” with Diana, is eager to prove that he is the superior psychic. He almost wins. People die, and Diana plays a deadly game to be the bait to catch him. The book takes place in New Orleans, which is the setting for all four books. Diana joins forces with Ernie Lucier, a mixed-race police lieutenant, who at first thinks she’s a charlatan (she is, in a way), and who finally sees her psychic ability is real. He becomes her partner, friend, and lover in subsequent books. To make matters more complicated, Diana’s father is a good-old-boy southern racist. Interestingly, one reviewer said that plot point was ridiculous because racism was all but dead. Hmm. Wonder what she’d think if she read it today.
I had no plan that the name Diana would trigger another plot when I wrote Mind Games. Diana’s name in that book recalls the mythological Diana as the Goddess of the Hunt but that she was also Goddess of the Moon. That became the title of the second book in which she is definitely the Goddess of the Hunt. Mythology became the theme of the book, and it took off from there.

I became intrigued by mythology, mysticism, and psychology during the writing of the second book, easing into Carl Jung’s philosophies and theories of which I had little knowledge. Again, intrigued, I crafted a group of people whose goal was to create a new species of highly intelligent humans. To do that, they kidnapped infants of super-intelligent people to be the basis of their new world order. In fact, chapter one is a baby kidnapping. The group targets Diana because of her psychic abilities with a mind to develop her genetic material in others. Sometimes I wonder if I was in a dark place that allowed me to write such a sinister book. Diana does some dumb things in this book, arrogantly thinking she is smarter than the people who have targeted her, and she pays dearly for it.

In book three, Backlash, Lucier, as I call him, becomes the target of a group of vigilantes when he gets too close to discovering who they are. The group is bumping off people who’ve gotten away with their heinous crimes. Though the reader knows these vigilantes are no better than their victims, we have the perverse desire to root for them, until they get too close to our hero. To silence Lucier, they inject him with drugs to the point that he becomes addicted. Never fear, Diana is on the case, working with Lucier’s team of cops that are in every book. Part of a successful series, if indeed mine is, is creating characters who grow with every book. It’s important to get to know these characters, to like them and to trust them. This book, in my opinion, has the most engaging characters of the series, both peripherally and with series regulars. I threw in a couple of surprises too.
Book four, The Scent of Murder, has two separate cases for Diana and Lucier to solve. The connecting element is smell, but the same smells aren’t connected to both stories. The difficulty is keeping the two plots separate without crossing from one crime into the other. Oh, and there’s a ghost that Diana connects with in this book, giving her more paranormal powers than she thought she had. Both plots involve missing women. One, the mother of a street boy that Diana and Lucier rescue and become deeply involved with, especially Lucier, who lost two sons, a daughter, and his wife in a car accident. The other missing woman is the twin of an eccentric New Orleans socialite. Are these women dead or alive? If dead, who killed them? What will happen to the boy if his mother is dead? These are the questions and mysteries to be solved.

Because readers wanted more, I started a fifth book, bringing Diana back to her home town in South Carolina and a dilemma with her father. I got to a point where I thought the plot didn’t work as written. That’s not to say I won’t go back to it. I have half a dozen books partially written I could resuscitate, but sometimes it’s the spontaneity of the story that makes a novel work. However, while writing this blog, I thought of a storyline for a fifth book that could work. We shall see.

I worked on my latest book, we are but WARRIORS, for years. Because of its political nature, I thought the politics of the story would change, making my book obsolete. But I finished it, and I’m glad I did. One reviewer asked for a follow-up. That makes me happy because it means the reader wants to know more about my characters and what happens after the book ends. I think about that one too. Maybe, just maybe …

Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

9 comments :

  1. Books partially written that we could go back to...that seems to be the case with many, many writers, including me. I agree, though, the joy is in the flow when first starting to work on a new idea. It's hard to go back to that half-finished stuff.

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    1. It has been for me. One of them turned out to be far edgier than I thought. Time has softened me.

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  2. Love learning the backstory to the books. Is there anything you would have done differently if you'd known? I published my series as I finished each book, and painted myself into a few corners. :)

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  3. Yes, I would have toned down book 2, Goddess of the Moon. There are a couple of places that Diana does something stupid. Too stupid. Also, there are parts that almost descend into erotica, and I wouldn't do that. I don't keep track of things from book to book. Each book is complete as a standalone. My characters are in my head--what they look like and how they act. I don't keep notes. Probably stupid but I never found myself backed into a corner. At least if I messed up, no reader has told me other than Diana acted stupidly.

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    1. I used to be able to keep things straight regarding what happened in past books that need to be consistent in a current book, but I've found in recent years it pays to have a series bible, much like episodic TV shows have. Sometimes readers will catch that one little thing you mixed up and call you on it. LOL I'm glad you haven't had that happen yet. I think I have your book, The Scent of Murder, in my Kindle but haven't made the time to read it. I need to remedy that. :-)

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    2. I'm sure I've been lucky. I think one of the things I do is put myself in my characters, so I remember as if it's happening to me. I'm sure I've made mistakes somewhere along the way, and I just haven't been caught. Maybe it's because I'm a frustrated actress and know my characters so well. I know in my latest book I got the names of the twins mixed up, but they look alike. That's my story and I'm sticking with it. Fortunately, I caught the name switches.

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  4. Nice to see your series recounted like this! I love your Diana books and hope you go for book 5

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  5. Having a reviewer ask for a follow-up story is pure gold. That makes all the effort that goes into taking a story idea from conception though creation to completion worth the many hours, the seemingly endless rewrites, the frequent frustrations, etc. Well done, Polly. :-)

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    1. Just getting a review now is a feat of historic proportions, Linda. Not sure why. I guess the book has to wow someone for a review. I know it does me.

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